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Monday, September 21, 2009

How to write crap books and make fortunes.

OK, so clearly I haven't posted here for a while but then most of my writing has gone towards my actual journalism course. Still, I figure that some of my "day job" writings would make decent blog posts and here's the first of them: a less than favourable review of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People:

Dale Carnegie is a perfectly readable writer.

With the good bits out of the way, let’s move onto why Carnegie’s “classic” self-help book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, encapsulates everything that’s so wrong with the so-called self-help genre. First published in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People (or Balderdash, for short) is generally accepted to be the first self-improvement book ever written. One could only wish that it was also the last.

Nominally, aimed at young business-people, Carnegie’s “insight” into human nature promises, as the title does indeed suggest, a guide to mastering your social domain. It is a book that essentially promises even the most socially awkward misfits a chance at popularity, friendship and the kind of social acumen that is usually reserved for the most successful of world leaders.

Sadly, what it promises and what it actually delivers is a rather different matter. How to Win Friend and Influence People veers wildly between the blindingly obvious, the excruciatingly banal and the embarrassingly superficial. Carnegie’s failure to grasp even the most readily apparent complexities of human nature is matched only by his asinine advice for improving social standing, including such gems as smiling when you talk to people, addressing them by their names and listening to what other people say.

It’s not that there isn’t some truth in what he says - indeed it is blindingly obvious for a reason – but it is so devoid of nuance and invention, never mind epiphany, that it is rendered useless to all but the most anti-social of serial killers. The entire book could probably be summarised into a fairly rubbish list of social do’s and don’ts so it’s especially annoying that each chapter is padded out with the most banal of, ha ha, “case studies”, which achieve nothing more than turning an irritating book into an unbearable one.

The book’s front cover may bear the boastful claim of “over 16 million copies sold” but, unlike with Elvis, it does appear that 16 million Dale Carnegie fans can, in fact, be wrong.


  1. Good one on Self Improvement and it helps a lot.

    Karim - Positive thinking

  2. reading dale carnigie is like watching dr. phil....everything they say is like "duh!"